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Jury Finds Three Guilty of Plot To Blow Up a Dozen US

By John J. Goldman
Los Angeles Times

A federal jury Thursday found Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, and two co-defendants guilty of plotting to blow up a dozen U.S. jetliners during 48 hours of unprecedented terror over the Pacific Ocean.

More than 4,000 people aboard the planes could have been killed had the 1995 plan succeeded, prosecutors told the jury of seven men and five women. The verdict added to a string of government successes in a series of spectacular trials after the bombing of the trade center in Manhattan in February 1993. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured in that attack. Yousef faces trial later this year in that case.

Yousef and his co-defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah - who are to be sentenced Dec. 5 - showed no emotion upon hearing the verdicts, reached in the fourth day of deliberations. The men face mandatory life sentences. Lawyers said that all three planned to appeal.

With the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board still investigating the possibilities that a bomb or a missile downed TWA Flight 800 July 17 off the coast of Long Island, N.Y., killing 230 people, the jury's decision Thursday received added attention.

Federal agents have placed followers of Yousef high on the list of potential suspects in the TWA crash, should that be found to be a criminal act, investigators said.

The plot to destroy the commercial airliners in Asia was never carried out. It was foiled when investigators found an apartment where Yousef and his co-conspirators were manufacturing explosives. But Yousef also was convicted of staging a trial run - bombing a Philippine airliner in 1994, killing a Japanese passenger and injuring several others.

Central to the prosecution's case was a white laptop computer that government lawyers said belonged to Yousef and contained airline schedules and the alleged times the bombs were to be detonated.

At the top of the screen containing the listings for Delta, Northwest and United airlines flights was the word "Bojinka," which prosecutors charged was the code name given to the plot, designed to weaken U.S. support for Israel.

"Thousands of passengers would have died only because they happened to be on a particular flight on a particular day," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said.

Only sloppiness in the mixing of the bomb-making materials, which caused a fire in an apartment in Manila that was rented by Yousef, thwarted the plot, prosecutors contended.

Yousef sought to rebut the evidence by bringing a computer expert to the witness stand.

Under questioning, Lance Leventhal demonstrated the ease with which entries in the computer could be changed - including altering even the computer's clock to disguise the time that files were recorded.

It was part of the defense's overall strategy to suggest to the jury that Yousef and his co-defendants were framed by Philippine police.

In an attempt to bolster that claim, two medical experts - a forensic psychologist and a psychiatrist - testified that Murad's behavior supported his statements that he had been tortured overseas while in police custody.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on 9/6/96.
Volume 116, Number 39.
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